From "Forty Square Meters of Germany" to "Forty Square Meters of Istanbul"


From "Forty Square Meters of Germany" to "Forty Square Meters of Istanbul"

The film "40 qm Deutschland" ("Forty Square Meters of Germany", 1986) by Tevik Baser, who was born in Turkey in 1951, is a condemnation of existing conditions. The film foregrounds the story of an immigrant, Turna, who is brought by her husband Dursun to Hamburg and locked inside their apartment. She is shown as being powerless in a macho society and isolated in a foreign land that she knows only from looking out the window. The film ends when her husband dies and she stands before the front door, a door to the world that according to Dursun was full of dangers and infectious immorality.

Source: DIF
"40 qm Deutschland" (Forty Square Meters of Germany, 1986)

Twenty-four years later, Fatih Akin's film "Gegen die Wand" focuses on the life of Sibel, a young woman of Turkish descent who lives in Hamburg. Akin, who was born in Hamburg in 1973, does not condemn anyone in the film, even though he does show constricting relations and considerable existential uncertainty. Sibel is banging her head against a wall just like her husband, Cahit, is. In the foreground are ambivalent characters who resist ethnic categorization, who are as anchored in the Hamburger "scene" as they are in the world of Turkish immigrants, and whose lives are as typical as they are unique, wherever they are. This evolution from Turna to Sibel is characteristic of a development in films by immigrants. One might put it this way: in 2004, the filmmakers (like their protagonists) have far more than "forty square meters of Germany" at their disposal; rather, their opportunities extend so far that they might take in even "forty square meters of Istanbul" (Sibel chooses, after all, to start a family in the Turkish metropolis).

© WÜSTE Film, photographer: Kerstin Stelter
"Gegen die Wand" (Head On, 2004)

We can see a radical change not only in relation to Turkish culture, but also in the choice of filmic material. While Turna's Anatolian garb in "40 qm Deutschland" marks the cultural gap between Turkey and Germany, Akin pays homage not only to multicultural Germany but also to multicultural Turkey: "Gegen die Wand" is punctuated with music acts in which the "Turkish-German" actress Idil Üner, accompanied by the Roma musician Selim Sesler and his orchestra, sings traditional Turkish songs in front of the Byzantine Hagia Sophia.